By Sadique Bamwita
The Entebbe Resident District commissioner, Jackie Kankunda, has sounded a stern warning to the UPDF Fisheries Protection Unit (FPU) against torturing fishermen suspected to be engaged in illegal fishing methods.
While handing back impounded items including boat engines, motorcycles, cars and boats to fishers at Gudda fishing site in Entebbe on Saturday, 2nd December, 2023, RDC Kankunda said it was wrong for the UPDF Fisheries protection Unit to use excessive force when countering unarmed fishers suspected to be involved in illegal fishing saying the government she serves is against acts of torture.
She added that handing back impounded items to fishers symbolizes the good relationship between government and the people it serves.
RDC Kankunda vehemently cautioned fishers who got back their impounded items to avoid involvement in any form of illegal fishing but rather follow Fisheries Laws so as to be able to do business on lakes without any interference from UPDF Fisheries protection Unit.
The Katabi Town council Mayor, Ronald Kalema Basamulakere, said returning impounded items to fishers shows the good collaboration between government and the local leadership, but condemned the UPDF Fisheries protection Unit for torturing fishers who violate fishing procedures.
He advised the UPDF Fisheries protection Unit to reprimand fishers found culpable of violating Fisheries procedures or laws. He also advised fishers to ensure they use the recommended fishing nets or gears.
The commander UPDF Fisheries protection Unit in Wakiso district, Lt. Hakim Mbaziira, said they decided to act on presidential directive who directed the UPDF to return the impounded items to fishers saying the President pardoned them. He revealed that items were impounded two years ago around fishing sites in Wakiso district.
“For one to get back his impounded items, he/she is required to present to us documents to verify them to prove ownership. In total we have 113 boat engines, 102 boats, 4 bicycles, 17 motorcycles and 3 cars.
“Those who fail to produce their documents for verification the government will have no option but to auction their items,” he warned.
The vice chairperson of Federation of Fisheries Association, Elly Wasajja, warned fishers to desist from bad fishing practice to avoid impounding their items which affects their livelihoods.
The chairperson of Bugonga fishing site, Sarah Namusoke Ddungu Ibaile, commended government for returning the impounded items to fishers and cautioned fellow fishers who use names of top UPDF officers to perpetuate illegal fishing on major lakes across the country.
Namusoke called upon fellow fishers to engage in legal fishing methods by using recommended fishing gears so as to be able to fish mature fish recommended on both local and international market.
The chairman Kigungu fishing site, Fred Muluri, expressed displeasure with the way UPDF Fisheries protection Unit tortured his fellow fishers saying some of the torture victims got permanent injuries while others were rendered impotent.
The chairman Gudda fishing site, Richard Kaaya, appreciated government for returning impounded items to fishers and urged his fellow fishers to follow Fisheries procedures and use recommended fishing gears when fishing on the lake.
He disclosed that fishers and their families at Gudda fishing site risk getting cholera because the fishing site lacks a public toilet and that people defecate in polythene bags and throw feaces everywhere.